Ironically, many come from ‘extreme, anti-life’ Canada

Canadian pro-life organizations continue to play a key role in developing young adult leaders who are bringing the culture of life ethic to the international stage.

Expanding on the pioneering efforts of Campaign Life Coalition in raising concerns about the anti-family sentiments coming from United Nations organizations, an increasing number of committed young adults are looking to promote the culture of life at the United Nations and other international organizations.

Thanks largely to the work of researchers Winifride Prestwich, Gilles Grondin and Louis DiRocco, CLC was one of the earliest voices calling for closer scrutiny of UN organizations such as UNICEF, which in the 1970s began to stray from its original humanitarian ideals. This deviation centred largely on UNICEF’s support for contraception and “reproductive choice” programs, many of which became directly linked to Third World development programs.

Prestwich’s 1970s pamphlet, UNICEF: Guilty As Charged, for example, sounded the alarm that some UN organizations were throwing their support behind anti-life programs. Despite repeated denials on the part of UNICEF about its role in promoting contraception in developing countries, Prestwich’s charges were borne out in 1996-97 when the Vatican officially ended its annual contribution to UNICEF. While the Vatican action was largely symbolic, it helped focus greater world attention on how some UN agencies were straying from their original principles.

Despite some disenchantment with current UN policies, many young adults remain committed to international forums as a way to further pro-life, pro-family work. Among them is Anna Halpine, who is now head of the World Youth Association, a New York-based organization that serves as a counterbalance to the United Nations’ decidedly pro-abortion Youth Caucus. Halpine is a former summer student with CLC’s Toronto office.

The WYA was created in March 1999 and has since become a force to be reckoned with. It aims to increase youth involvement and active participation in the international decision-making process, especially as a counterbalance to the anti-family values espoused by the United Nations-sanctioned youth organization.

CLC continues to be involved in international lobbying efforts. Current Campaign Life staff member Samantha Singson travels to New York regularly to defend the pro-life position at various UN conferences.

Another CLC member, Tanya Granic of Toronto, has also represented the pro-life, pro-family voice at international gatherings of young people in New York. Granic, a former president of Campaign Life Coalition Youth, has extended the view that UN youth organizations do not represent the position of all young people, especially in the area of life and family issues.

But it’s not just CLC and its alumni who are making a bold stand for the family on the international forum. Committed pro-life young people have also furthered the Canadian pro-life pipeline at the Holy See Mission to the United Nations.

Larissa Gray, an intern at the Holy See Mission in 1997-98, said promoting pro-family issues on the international stage was an ideal opportunity to put her Catholic faith into action.”I found the experience to be enriching because it was an opportunity to represent my Catholic faith,” she told The Interim. “Often during negotiations (on UN policy statements), delegates representing other countries would request that I continue to pursue a certain point. They would confide that they were Catholic; however, their country’s policies forbade them from supporting the Holy See. It was truly a gift to be able to represent positions and policies that I believe in.”

Now studying the French language in Europe, Gray is a former member of the Newman Centre Catholic parish at the University of Toronto. She said more young adults in Canada and elsewhere are more confident about bringing faith issues, especially in the area of respect for human life, into the public policy platform. “During the two years that I was at the United Nations, this began to bloom and has really flourished in the past two years. Young people, inspired by their faith, are confidently bringing the Catholic social teaching into the public sphere, whether international organizations, in their communities, at school or in the workplace.”

Similarly Marisa de Souza, Gray’s successor as an intern at the Holy See Mission, said “a critical mass” of young people are starting to animate their pro-life, pro-family values in whatever circumstances they find themselves. She said the United Nations and Holy See mission work are evidence of young adults working toward faith ideals in the public arena. “There is an erroneous view that young people are disillusioned with the church and do not care about the moral questions facing society,” she told The Interim. “In my experience, this is simply not true.”

Austin Ruse, executive director of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), told The Interim that young adult Canadians can take some pride in furthering pro-life, pro-family work on the international stage.

“I think there is definitely a strong Canadian connection to pro-life work at the UN level,” Ruse added. “Canadians have always been among the largest cohort in working for pro-life aims at the international level. Some of that is related to the fact that it’s easier for Canadians to come down to New York, but there is no doubt they are making a major contribution.”

Ruse suggested that an additional reason Canadians have taken international pro-life work to heart relates to the “radical” stand often taken by Canadian delegations to UN conferences. “The Canadian connection to international pro-life work makes sense in view of the country’s extreme position on certain anti-life issues,” he said.